Snap.…snap.…snap flash! There’s Grandma Evelyn with her ever-present Kodak Instamatic! Come sit awhile, Grandma, and let’s hear about you. The youngest of my four grandparents is my dad’s mother, Evelyn Josephine Nichols. Evelyn was born in Galesburg, Illinois on December 5, 1908, to Finis Ewing Nichols and Edythe Mae Siepel.
Grandma Evelyn was the second of four children and the only girl. Her older brother Alfred was born in 1907 and died when he was just four months old. The family moved to Peoria, Illinois in 1912. Evelyn’s younger brothers, Merle and Charles, were born in 1912 and 1915, respectively. Evelyn and her brothers grew up in the family home at 813 E. Republic Avenue, across the street from Glen Oak School. After high school, Evelyn attended Brown’s Business College and then worked as a stenographer for John C. Streibich Company, purveyor of “wrapping, roofing and building paper, blank books and office stationary.” She had a lively circle of girlfriends, several of whom she kept in touch with her whole life.
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When she was 29 years old, Evelyn married Henry A. Myers, Jr. on March 6, 1937, in Eureka, Illinois. She and Grandpa Hank built their home at 808 Ashland Avenue and moved in when they got married. Evelyn and Hank had four children, Don, Sharon, Joanne, and Robert (Butch). After she married, Grandma never worked outside the home, but she was always involved behind the scenes in Grandpa’s concrete contracting business. Grandma Evelyn was with us longer than any of my grandparents. She died on May 26, 1996, at the age of 87.
Grandma Evelyn was optimistic, jovial, generous, and understanding. She was a long-time member of the First United Methodist Church in Peoria. Grandma was a great homestyle cook—fried chicken and German potato salad were Sunday staples for many years. She had an insatiable sweet tooth, and you could count on her candy bowls being full of ribbon candy, Mary Janes and M&Ms. Evelyn and Hank took lots of road trips all over the United States. I was fascinated with her charm bracelet which was loaded with dozens of souvenir charms, including enameled states, a silver sombrero, a lamp post labeled Bourbon Street, and a tiny crate of oranges. Even in her later years she was always up for travel and family get-togethers. In her 80s, she flew to Las Vegas for a family reunion and Albuquerque for her granddaughter Amy’s wedding. She attended her Siepel and Knoedler annual family reunions in McDonough County, Illinois, as often as she could.
Grandma had a second charm bracelet with boy and girl silhouettes engraved with the names and birthdates of each of her 13 grandchildren. She was very proud of all her grandkids and never missed an opportunity to talk about them. (My sibs and I used to feel a little jealous that all she talked about was our cousins until the cousins told us all she talked about was us!) Grandma Evelyn loved to socialize and she loved snapping photos. She always ended a conversation with, “Send pictures!” Of all the grandparents, I would vote Grandma Evelyn most likely to have a Facebook account. She would have loved the ability to keep up with her far-flung grandchildren and great-grandchildren on a regular basis!
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